by Sheridan Lane, interim director, LLCC culinary program and operations
In my neck of the woods, farming is in full swing, and Mason county is teeming with fresh produce grown and sold commercially. Green bean fields have already been harvested. Potatoes are being dug and hauled off for chips. Sweet corn and melons are maturing and being picked, and low and behold, so are the beets. Fields and fields of beets. Many of you may be thinking that beets are terrible, tucked away, back-of-the-shelf cans of deep red things no one would dare touch, let alone purposefully make, but I challenge you to “feel the beet” in a whole new way.
First of all, many recipes call for boiling the beet rather than roasting them, which renders their subtle, earthy flavor tasteless and boring. Instead, try a different method which improves their texture and highlights their natural sweetness:
If you are shopping at a farmer’s market and stumble across beets, pick bunches with big, beautiful leaves and hard bottoms. We are going to talk about what to do with the beet portion in just a second, but don’t overlook those beet tops either. They are absolutely delicious when sautéed until wilted with a little olive oil, fresh minced garlic, red pepper flake or Thai chili, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon or lime. While I love those beet tops, today’s rhythm is about the bottom. Try these two unique ways to use beets this summer.
1. Cut off the tops, wash the tuber to remove the dirt, and place them in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with kosher or sea salt.
2. In an oven proof dish, place the beets along with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Cover the pan with foil and roast/steam the beets for roughly 45 minutes in a pre-heated 400-degree oven until you can easily slice into the beet with a butter knife.
4. Peel and let cool.
Beet & Goat Cheese Bruschetta with Truffle Oil & Mint:
If you are not into taking the time to roast the beets on your own, you can select a pickled (in a jar) variety to use in this recipe.
Whipped Goat Cheese – In a standing mixer, whip a 10 ounce log of fresh goat cheese with 4 ounces cream cheese until it is light and fluffy. NOTE: At this point, the whipped goat cheese can be used in place of the cream cheese in the icing recipe below to accompany the red velvet beet cupcakes.
For Bruschetta – Add 5 ounces of finely chopped green onions to whipped goat cheese mix and slather generously on your favorite crusty baguette (Toast it if you prefer.) In a small mixing bowl, zest 1 tsp rind along with the juice of one lemon. Add 1 tablespoon truffle oil (more if you like a more robust truffle flavor), a scant tablespoon honey depending upon the natural sweetness of the beet, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together dressing and then add then toss in the beets well coating them with the dressing. Taste! Depending on the beet, you can add a touch of red wine vinegar or more lemon to cut any bitterness or a bit more honey if you need to sweeten them a bit more. Spoon the dressed beets on top of the goat cheese, crusty bread, and then garnish with finely chopped mint. Simple, elegant and very delicious.
Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes
Growing up, my grandma was the “go to” person when it came time to make the beloved birthday cakes – a tradition that I am happy to have inherited. While I could definitely benefit from a class or two here at LLCC on cake decorating, the combination of just the right cake with just the right icing is more important to me than the decor. One of Grandma JoAnn’s most requested birthday favorites was the beloved Red Velvet Cake – dense and chocolaty but with a cooked white icing instead of the more common cream cheese version. Here we are giving this classic cake new style. It’s a different version all together, but one that (if she didn’t know how much better it is for you than her version) might just make her smile.
This chocolate cake gets its color and texture from the vibrant-red, naturally sweet beet. We puree the tender beet root with buttermilk and vanilla to create a cream that not only adds to the texture of the cupcake but also allows us to use less sugar, oil and butter in the batter, saving calories. You simply can’t “beet” it.
Active Time: 25 Mins / Total Time: 1 Hour 45 Mins
Serves 18 (serving size: 1 cupcake)
10-oz. roasted beets, peeled, & cooled
2/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces white whole-wheat flour (about 2 cups) or gluten free flour blend (my favorite all-purpose blend is Namaste Perfect Flour Blend)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
1/3 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Dash of kosher salt
8 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened (you can use the whipped goat cheese here if you like a bit more tang)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 18 muffin cups with liners; coat with baking spray.
Process beets in a food processor until very finely chopped. Remove 1 cup beet from processor; reserve remaining beet for another use. Return 1 cup reserved beet to food processor; add buttermilk and vanilla. Process until very smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
In an electric mixer, beat granulated sugar, oil, and 1/4 cup butter in a large bowl on medium speed with paddle attachment until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs and egg white, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. To the butter mixer, alternately add flour and beet mixtures, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake 18 to 20 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on wire rack.
To prepare frosting, beat yogurt, butter, salt and cream cheese in an electric mixer on high speed with the whisk attachment until smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat on low speed until combined. (Do not overbeat.) Spread or pipe onto cupcakes.